Obrázky stránek

various ways; but principally by systematically diverting their attention from serious literary, scientific, religious and useful studies, by means of numerous idle and useless holidays, more or less, in every year; and by all sorts of vicious as well as idle and worthless shows and exhibitions; such as chariot races, gladiatorial combats, bull-baitings, theatres, circusses; and, in short, perhaps a hundred other devices, calculated and intended to retard mental improvement, and thus to render the populace, the many, through their own heedlessness and ignorance, the dupes and slaves of the few. If, indeed, in a free government like ours, where rulers are responsible to the people, corruption and tyranny, or usurpation, begin, the moment that vigilance on the part of the people ceases; how much worse must be the condition of the people where they are not only kept in gross ignorance of their rights, but their rulers are irresponsible to them, and have exclusive possession of the sword and the purse-strings.

In our infant Republic, holidays are not so numerous, or so general, as to demand particular animadversion at this time; not that we believe in keeping even one of them; for they are all alike idle and useless in our estimation; but to notice them all, in a proper manner, would just now perhaps be productive of no very great if any effect. We shall, therefore, pass them over at present, and proceed to notice some of the other means by which, both in ancient and modern Europe, the people have been led to yield up their judgment and understanding to the keeping of Popes, Bishops and Monks; Monarchs, Dukes and Lords : And among such means, next to the holidays, none are better adapted to that end than the Theatre, because, apparently, though a very delusive

appearance, it combines instruction with amusement; leading the dupes, who spend their time in attending to it, to believe, that while their eyes are feasted with fanciful scenery, and their ears tickled with straws of wit, that their minds may be improved. There is, indeed, such a glare of artificial beauty in the paintings of the various scenes, and the paraphernalia or dresses of the actors and actresses, with other accompaniments, which need no special reference, that Satan himself perhaps could not have devised a more artful scheme than the Theatre, to entrap the young and unwary, and lure them from the paths of peace and happiness to those of penury and perdition.

That “the Theatre was, from the very first, as Pollok says, "the favourite haunt of sin," we can readily believe; and this must be clear to every one who knows any thing of the original

or early state of it, when such licentious and profligate exhibitions as those of Aristophanes and Plautus, ministered to the malignity, sensuality and vulgarity of the silly multitudes of Greece and of Rome-states or empires, which have been dwelt upon in many a theme of the historian, the orator and the poet, as the seats of genius, learning and refinement, when, in fact, in their “best and palmiest days" they were little if any better than semi-barbarians; such as all nations have been, and most of them still are, and will ever continue to be, so long as the barbarous art of war, and the vile and perfidious system of political villainy, prevail over the mild arts of peace and civilization, and the pure principles of public and private virtue. In the true sense of the term, the world is, to this day, scarcely more than half civilized. We are, after much reflection on the subject, perfectly satisfied, that true religion, literature and science must be seated on the thrones and in the cabinets of Europe, and in the executive and legislative halls of America—and that true religion must possess the hearts of the people universally-before true civilization can prevail over the lingering relics of past ignorant and barbarous ages, which still every where display themselves throughout the world; and what is still worse, are every where, through the want of vigilance in public rulers and teachers of all sorts, more or less mixed up with the pure phiolsophy of christianity; but of the way in which they are thus mixed up, to the great detriment of christianity, I shall have occasion to show in a work which I have now on hand. Among these relics of heathenism and barbarism, however, there is not perhaps a more contemptible or mischievons one, than that vile temple of vice and corruption, the Theatre; against which it is the sacred duty of every father of a family, every honest man, and every sincere christian, to raise his voice or his pen, or both, till the nuisance be thoroughly abated, and our moral, political and religious atmospheres be no longer tainted by its abominations.

But our motto proceeds to say that the Theatre has been approved by “some very honest, wise and worthy men.” Honest and worthy men may have been for a while led astray to believe in the utility of the Theatre; but that 6 wise men” ever were, we boldly deny. Wisdom is the fruit of experience; and no man, we venture to affirm, after experiencing the evil effects of the Theatre, ever approved of it; and no sound and sensible man ever attended it for any considerable length of time, without having such experience of its pernicious effects on himself, or perceiving so clearly its malign influence


on the habits and fortunes of others, as to become thoroughly disgusted with and tired of it. This is our own experience, and we feel it our duty to state the fact without disguise. When the first Theatre was built in a certain city, the writer was one of the most active promoters of the enterprise. A man who thought more correctly than we then did on the subject, said to us—“ The day will come, sir, when you will mourn in sack-cloth and ashes, the part you are now taking to build up that pernicious institution.” We then disregarded the suggestion ; but we have lived to see it realized; for we have lived to see some twenty or thirty of the young men of the place—some of them possessed of the brightest geniuses and the best of hearts, in a mere moral sense-go down to untimely graves, through the effects upon their habits of the lessons of folly and wickedness imbibed in that sink of pollution, which, to our own lasting mortification and regret, we took so active a part in establishing; the folly of which we have indeed figuratively, if not literally, mourned "in sack-cloth and ashes."

You were not wise, then, Mr. Man of Sixty, methinks I hear exclaimed, from the lips of some young reader. True enough, my young censor, I was not; nor does it mortify me to make the confession, since I hope it may, with a very

« PředchozíPokračovat »